Bel Powley Talks Cheering Up Liev Schreiber While Filming 'A Small Light' & Why She Couldn’t Speak to Jennifer Aniston

The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Morning Show, and, most recently, A Small Light, are all shows and movies where the world got to know (and love) Bel Powley. From her incredible versatility to her ever-so-expressive eyes, Powley is undeniably one of Hollywood’s biggest rising stars.

And, in celebration of A Small Light‘s finale tonight, May 22, Powley sat down to look back on her career as part of our series, “What’s in My Box?” During our chat, Powley went through a box of career mementos and shared what it was like to work with beloved Hollywood stars like Liev Schreiber, Jennifer Aniston and Alexander Skarsgård.

“It was an absolute dream working with this man,” she says of Schreiber. In the National Geographic show, Powley plays Miep Gies, a young woman who put her life on the line to help Anne Frank’s family, including her dad Otto (played by Schreiber), during World War II. “His performance as Otto is so beautiful, it’s so quiet and subtle and resting and it’s a great antithesis to my Miep who was quite an outspoken, chaotic, loud person. So the scenes that we have together are some of my favorites.”

Powley then went on to clarify the one physical change Schreiber had to do to look like the patriarch. “That is a bald cap, he does have hair in real life,” she adds. “I’m sure he’d want me to say that.” Schreiber, for his part, was apparently not a huge fan of the new look. “It was the first time he wore that bald cap and I’m telling you he was not happy,” she remembers. “It was really hot, it was summer in Prague and it was our first scene that we had to film together and it was the first time he had the bald cap on and he was wearing a woolen suit and he wasn’t happy but I think I managed to cheer him up.”

As for what most surprised Powley about the Franks’ tragic story, she said their hiding place was even more difficult to live in than people imagine. “I can’t tell you how claustrophobic it is,” she says of the set’s exact replica on the hidden annex. “I mean just filming in there for a day with nine other actors was [claustrophobic] so I can even imagine what it must have been like for these people who had to live there for two years.”

Luckily for Powley, Joe Cole, who plays Miep’s husband Jan Gies on the show, was also a pleasure to work with. “He’s a great friend of mine and it was very easy having this kind of chemistry with him because he’s such a lovely person,” she says. “I love their relationship so much, it’s so special and it was such a dream working with Joe.”

Also co-starring with Powley in A Small Light is the “fantastic” Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Miep’s best friend Tess. “It’s actually the only made-up character in the whole show, the showrunners wanted to show another young person who instead of deciding to do something to something in the war, decided not to do something,” Powley says of Tomlinson’s character. “Miep decides to help people and Tess is a passive bystander.”

Powley then dished about her experience in the Apple TV+ hit The Morning Show starring alongside Hollywood legends Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. In the show, Powley played Claire Conway, a production assistant to Witherspoon’s character Bradley. “It was an incredibly surreal experience for me, especially with this one,” she says, pointing to Aniston. “In England, after school when I was in high school, Friends used to be played on repeat on one of our main channels so I’ve honestly watched every episode 10 million times.”

Safe to say Powley was all kinds of starstruck when they were on set together. “I honestly couldn’t speak for the first three months,” she says. We totally get it!

Powley also looked back on one of her first movies, Wildling, with Liv Tyler. “It was a really intense experience actually,” she says. “What drew me to this project was it’s just a very feminist story. Her turning into a werewolf was kind of a metaphor for her coming of age and her turning from a girl to a woman. I found that really interesting and Liv was amazing.”

When flipping the cards to find her 2017 movie Mary Shelley, where she starred alongside Elle Fanning and her fiancé Douglas Booth, Powley’s face immediately lit up. “This was such a fun movie to make,” she says. “This was actually the film in which I met my now fiancé. I have so many good memories from this. I mean, mainly because I met my nearly husband, but we got on really well from the moment we started filming and then we kind of just like we’ve been together ever since.”

As for how their romance started onset, Powley admits the two “weren’t very subtle” and that everyone knew despite them trying to keep it a secret.

Speaking of Booth, Powley also shared the story of their engagement in July 2021. “He proposed to me on Primrose Hill, which is like a really beautiful park in London,” she says, smiling from ear to ear.

Lastly, Powley talked about her “special” time starring in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, her breakout movie alongside Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgård. “It was kind of like the first movie that truly explored what it’s like to discover your sexuality as a teenage girl in like a really honest and raw way, which is really what drew me to the project,” she says.

Check out some of these stories and much more above in Powley’s “What’s in My Box?” segment. And, don’t forget, the A Small Light finale premieres tonight!

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